Universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Nottingham and Queen's University Belfast
2016 - 2021
DESCRIPTION OF THE RESEARCH PROJECT(S)
Understanding the transformative power of multilingualism is vital. Over half of mankind daily speaks more than one language, and multilingualism brings advantages for community relations, business, and global understanding. Yet the linguistic landscape is changing fast, with English increasingly the lingua franca. In the UK, many schools are highly multilingual, despite falling numbers learning languages, and almost 1 in 5 primary school pupils have a first language other than English. Equally integral to a multilingual UK are the indigenous languages (e.g. Irish, Scottish Gaelic). The decline in pupils taking language GCSEs/A-levels and the number of children with English as an additional language are often portrayed negatively, and the value of community and minoritized languages is underestimated. The aim of MEITS was to reflect critically on multilingualism and to transform attitudes through greater understanding. Our approach was holistic, exploring individuals, communities and nations. We analysed the situations giving rise to multilingualism, its social implications and creative possibilities, and the relationships between languages, cultures, identities and standards. We explored why individuals/societies choose (consciously or not) to be multilingual, the potential of multilingualism as ‘mental gymnastics’, ways to optimize language learning in school, and the benefits of multilingualism for community and international relations.
WHY/HOW DOES YOUR PROJECT ADVANCE OUR KNOWLEDGE ON BILINGUALISM/MULTILINGUALISM/CONTACT?
MEITS looked at the benefits of multilingualism in a holistic way including languages learnt in our schools and universities, indigenous language and community languages
It explored the benefits and possible disadvantages of being multilingual from a number of related angles, including for social and community cohesion and health and well-being
Through working with schools it produced research-informed materials for primary and secondary schools (wamcam.org)
Both MEITS and Promoting Language Policy had a strong policy dimension. A database of all language UK legislation was produced as well as a report with RAND Europe on the economic value to the UK of speaking other languages
WHAT IS THE SOCIAL IMPACT OF YOUR PROJECT?
We ran a number of outreach activities, notably our Pop-Up museum or World of Languages which had a number of activities to demonstrate that languages are fun and easier than you think.
We produced some fun online games for young people: https://www.worldoflanguages.co.uk/
Though our policy work, we worked to move languages higher up the political agenda in the UK.
LOCATION AND/OR IMPACT OF YOUR PROJECT